Article by Tricia Christopher, Landscape Architect and Designer of the Mediterranean and Sensory Gardens
Lavenders are featured prominently in the Sensory Garden, with their own “Lavender Hill” in the center of the garden. Here, drifts of several lavender varieties in beautiful shades of blues, purples and whites provide distinctive herbal fragrance.
Lavender is known for it’s ability to reduce stress and induce relaxation, and this effect is apparent when strolling through the Sensory Garden this time of year. Combined with the hum of bees and trickle of water from the nearby fountain bowl, the wafting lavender scents calm and refresh.
Lavenders prefer sunny, dry conditions, and require good drainage. Amending the soil and planting on a mound will help with drainage issues. They also look much better with an annual heavy pruning after flowering. Lavenders may develop dead branches after a few years, and it is usually best to replace rather than attempt to “save” them.
Types of Lavender
One of the easiest lavenders to grow is Lavandula ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’. As it’s name implies, the foliage is a soft silvery grey, growing to about 2 1/2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It tends to flower almost year round, so it is hard to know when to prune it back; however, a heavy pruning each year keeps it compact and the foliage fresh. Although the violet flowers may not be as showy as other varieties, ‘Goodwin Creek’ doesn’t have the dieback problems that plague other lavenders.
Lavandula intermedia ‘Grosso’ is a very fragrant and very high in essential oils; thus, it is widely grown for use in cleaning products. It is very showy in bloom, usually July through September, and flowers dry well. Plants grow as large as 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide, with sage green foliage and tall violet purple flower stems. Pruning after bloom keeps it from getting woody. (Recommended as one of the best lavenders by Rose at Morning Sun Herb Farm http://www.morningsunherbfarm.com/ssp/home)
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ is a dwarf English Lavender variety that grows about 1 foot tall. The sweetly aromatic flowers and gray-green foliage are excellent for cooking. It is an early bloomer, with purple flowers that dry well. Good drainage is essential. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote Blue’ is similar low growing English Lavender that is also recommended as one of the best lavenders by Rose at Morning Sun Herb Farm.
Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’, or Spanish Lavender, is also easy to grow and very showy in bloom. Spanish Lavender is one of the earliest blooming, often starting in February and continuing for months. It has distinctive rosy purple flowers with “rabbit ears” that stick up on top, which are quite impressive en masse. The angled afternoon sun can make the flowers light up and glow purple. Plants are about 2 1/2 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
You’ll find Tricia Christopher in the Sensory or Mediterranean Gardens most work party days (the first and third Saturdays of each month). She’s happy to answer your questions about Mediterranean gardening and/or visit her website http://www.tchristopher.com/